David J. Swarts, commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles and chair of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, has announced enactment of a new state law that will improve driver training and highway safety. The new law increases the amount of supervised training required before a new driver can apply for a driver's license and requires that all drivers under 18 have no more than one non-family member under 21 as a passenger.
The legislation, recommended by the DMV and signed into law by Gov. David A. Paterson, now requires applicants for a standard driver or motorcycle license, who are under 18 years of age and have completed an approved driver education course, to submit proof of having completed a minimum of 50 hours of supervised driving, 15 hours of which must be completed after sunset. Prior to the change in law, persons under 18 years of age who took an approved driver education course were exempt from the minimum hours of supervised driving requirement.
A new provision also requires that drivers under 18 may not have more than one non-family member under 21 as a passenger. Under previously enacted legislation this provision only applied to drivers who received their license on or after Feb. 22, 2010. This new change to take effect Sept. 1 requires that any driver under 18, even those who got their driving privilege prior to the change in law, are bound by this restriction.
"Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for teens and the crash fatality rate is highest for 16- to 17-year-olds within the first six months of getting their license," said Swarts. "This amendment closes a loophole in the current law and addresses a main cause of teen driver crashes, which is inexperience."
DMV points out the change in the number of required hours for supervised driver training proved necessary because driver education courses generally provide only six hours of actual driving experience and most do not provide nighttime driving. DMV believed that those who complete a driver education course would also benefit from the 50 hours of supervised driving requirement. Under this legislation, all license applicants who are under the age of 18 must submit the proof of additional driving experience before the skills exam is administered by a DMV motor vehicle license examiner.
Prior to Feb. 22, 2010, the law also provided that up to two non-family passengers under age 21 could be passengers in a motor vehicle operated by the holder of a junior driver or junior motorcycle learner's permit/license. The recent legislation tightened this restriction by allowing only one non-family member under age 21 to be a passenger in a motor vehicle operated by the holder of a junior permit or license. But this also created a situation where persons who were issued their junior permits or licenses prior to Feb. 22 of this year were subject to a different and less stringent requirement than license holders who received a permit or license on or after that date. The different limitations also caused some problems for law enforcement personnel.
The new change subjects all junior license and permit holders to the passenger restrictions no matter when the permit or license was issued, contributing to both highway safety and enforceability.
The legislation regarding the increased driver training took effect on Aug. 14, and the law regarding the limitations on passengers takes effect on Sept. 1.
A "Resources for the Younger Driver" website, launched in May, 2009, contains information for new drivers and their guardians on such subjects as vehicle and traffic law as it applies to younger drivers including the graduated driver license law, current permit and license restrictions and passenger restrictions. It can be found at a link on the DMV website, www.nysdmv.com, or by going directly to http://www.nysdmv.com/youngerdriver/.